The Independence Party, a populist right-wing party campaigning for a Finnish exit from the European Union, has taken a surprise fourth place in Allianssi Youth Elections – ranking only behind the National Coalition, the Greens and the Centre, and narrowly ahead of the Finns Party.
The Social Democrats, in turn, failed to appeal to young people and only received 5.9 per cent of the roughly 22,000 votes cast by under 18-year-old people at 325 schools across Finland.
The votes would see the National Coalition claim three and the Greens two seats in the European Parliament, while other parties represented in the Finnish Parliament would claim one seat, with the exception of the Left Alliance.
Although the Independence Party has traditionally won votes among older voters, it has recognised the growing interest of young people in its political agenda. “Over the past 18 months, the interest of young people in our party has increased surprisingly fast,” party secretary Martti Pohjolainen says.
“Young people are disillusioned by promises of new jobs that the EU membership was supposed to create,” he estimates.
The popularity of the right-wing fringe party also took Ville Pitkänen, a senior research fellow at the University of Turku, by surprise. He points out, however, that the popularity of Timo Isosaari may to an extent be attributable to his candidate number, 69.
“It seems that some young people didn't take the elections entirely seriously,” Pitkänen said during a panel discussion organised by Allianssi.
Isosaari, a 50-year-old candidate for the Independence Party from Nokia, received the second most votes in the shadow elections after Alexander Stubb of the National Coalition. Paavo Väyrynen, a 67-year-old seasoned Centre representative, came in third ahead of Jussi Halla-aho of the Finns Party and Päivi Räsänen of the Christian Democrats.
The most popular candidate running on the ticket of the Greens was Touko Aalto, the deputy chairperson of the party. “In politics, it's vital to attune yourself to the frequency of the recipient and to genuinely listen to people,” he said.
Overall, the unprecedented popularity of fringe parties came as a surprise to experts. “[The results] challenge major parties and the mainstream media to think about where young people get their information. Candidates for fringe parties don't receive a lot of attention in the mainstream media, but they are well-known among young people,” highlighted Eero Rämö, the president at Allianssi.
Jaana Savolainen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
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Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva